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 Punjabi Wedding Traditions

The Punjabi community is known for having lavish festivals and weddings. Their wedding preparations begin well in advance and the 'sangeet' parties have become elaborate occasions lasting almost for a week sometimes!

The bridegroom generally mounts a richly caparisoned mare and his 'baraat' (procession) is replete with a live band and relatives and friends accompanying him sing and dance all the way to the wedding venue!

Punjabi families exchange lavish gifts all throughout the marriage ceremonies. Their weddings are usually held in hotels or banquet halls and in cities like New Delhi, huge 'shamianas' (decorative tents) are erected in parks to host the wedding ceremonies and quite often, the reception.

Some common surnames:
Kamboj, Arora, Malhotra, Chawla, Wadhwa, Singh,Kapoor, Khanna, Dhawan


Thaka or Roka (Announcement of the Engagement)
'Rokna' is an important part of the Punjabi wedding although the 'shagun' now could be any amount of money - instead of the customary Rs. 1.25, which was so common in the olden days. The Rokna ceremony where the boy and girl give their commitment to get married to each other is performed at the house of the bride-to-be. So the family and relatives of the prospective groom must go to her house for the ceremony. The ceremony consists of a simple puja that is conducted by a purohit, followed by an exchange of gifts between the two families. After this ceremony they are free to court each other.

Magni, Sagaai or Kudmai (Engagement )

In many Indian marriages, a formal engagement takes place before the wedding. The formal 'asking' of the bride's hand in marriage by the groom's family is known as the 'mangni'. Rings are exchanged between the bride and the groom to be, in the presence of a 'pandit' or 'pujari', close friends and relatives. The wedding day would normally be fixed after the 'sagai'.

Sagan and Chunni Chadana (Dressing-up and blessing of the bride)
The ceremonies are combined together, usually conducted in a banquet hall or a club. The purohit performs a havan. The father of the bride-to-be applies tilak on the forehead of the groom-to-be. The bride is dressed in clothes and jewellery that have been presented to her by her future in-laws. Close female relatives form the groom's home go the bride's home with what is known as the 'suhag ki pitari' (a decorated basket containing gifts from the groom's mother for the bride). These gifts usually consist of 'mehendi' (henna), clothes, jewellery, fruits, dry fruits, dried coconut, 'chuaare' or dried dates, bangles, 'sindoor' (vermilion powder) and a red 'dupatta' or veil.  Her mother-in-law feeds her boiled rice and milk as part of the ritual.

During this ceremony the ladies sing wedding songs to the beat of a 'dholak' or small drum and decorate the bride-to-be by dressing her up and draping the red 'dupatta' on her.

Ladies Sangeet (The music ceremony)

 Punjabi celebrations typically comprise of 'gaana, bajaana, khanna, peena, (singing, dancing, eating, drinking!). Family and friends sing to the catchy beat of the 'dholak' (small drum) making sure several songs are sung to tease the bride's mother-in-law and other members of the groom's family!

In a lot of urban communities, the 'sangeet' is a mixed party held at night, hosted separately by both families on two consecutive evenings. Drinks flow, dinner is served and the celebrations could well continue till the wee hours of the next morning.

Mehandi (The Heena Cermony)
This is an intimate ceremony, mainly for the ladies in the family and the bride's friends. The 'mehendi' (henna) is passed around to all present for their blessings and each one leaves a few rupees in the platter. 'Mehendi' is then smeared on the palms of the bride after which she reaches back and leaves the impressions of her palms on the wall behind her. These days a protective sheet of paper is pasted on the wall! The henna is quickly washed off and then the professional henna artists or 'mehendiwallis' take over by decorating the palms of the bride and her friends. The bride's 'mehendi' can take upto hours for the intricate patterns to be drawn and then left to dry to achieve a deep red colour. A simple 'mehendi' ceremony is conducted for the groom at his home. The 'mehendi' is passed around to all to be blessed, then smeared onto his palms and quickly washed off! The women in his family may call in a professional 'mehendi' artist to decorate their palms.

In both the homes the ladies sing and dance to the beat of the 'dholak'.

Kangan Bandhana (Tying of the symbolic bracelet on the couple)
On the morning of the wedding day, the bride and the groom (each in their respective homes), has to have the sacred thread or 'mouli' tied to their right wrists. The 'mouli' has an iron 'challa' (bracelet) tied to it along with turmeric sticks, 'supari' (betel nut) and 'kaudis' (shells). The thread has to have as many knots as possible in order to make it difficult to untie later.

Chuda Charana
The maternal uncle of the bride-to-be plays an important role in this ceremony. The oldest maternal uncle and aunt as well as the girl's parents usually fast throughout the day or at least until the completion of this ceremony. The purohit performs a havan. After the puja, the chuda (a set of red and cream ivory bangles) are touched by all present to signify their blessings and good wishes for the bride-to-be. The bride must slip the chuda on her wrist. This is followed by an iron bangle (for good luck) with shells and beads, and a mauli that the pandit ties around her wrist. Flower petals are showered on the girl after the ceremony and prasad is distributed among all. The girl's maternal uncle and aunt, friends and cousins tie kaliras (silver, gold or gold plated traditional ornaments that are tied to the chuda). Before departing for her husband's home, the bride must tap one of her unwed female friends or cousins with her kaliras. According to popular belief, the one who is tapped thus will be the next one to marry.


The morning of the wedding is marked by the gharoli ceremony at the groom's house. The groom's sister-in law accompanied by other female relatives go to a nearby well or Gurudwara to fill an earthen pitcher or gharoli with water which is later used to bath the bridegroom.

Ghara ghardoli, utpan and vatna
This ritual demands that the bride-to-be stay at home in her old clothes for a couple of days before her wedding. She must sit in the vicinity of four lit diyas or oil lamps so that the glow from them is reflected on her face. A sibling and the sibling's spouse usually fill a pitcher of water from a nearby temple to be added to the bath and old garments are given away to a poor person. Before her bath, vatna or uptan (a paste of powdered turmeric and mustard oil) is applied on her body by female relatives and friends. Both, the ghara ghardoli and the vatna ceremonies are also performed for the groom at his house. Here the pitcher of water is brought for his bath by his bhabi (elder brother's wife).

Bridal dress
The bride is dressed by her mother, female relatives and friends amid much gaiety. She may wear a sari or a lehenga in traditional colours like red, orange or magenta. She is adorned with traditional gold jewellery.

Bridegroom's attire
The groom dresses in formal attire, which may be traditional or western. A young nephew or cousin also dons similar attire. He is called the sarbala (caretaker of the groom) and accompanies him on his mare or in his car.

A puja is performed after the groom dons his wedding attire. His sehra or turban is blessed by his relatives, as is the silver mukut or crown that goes on top of the turban. At the end of the ceremony, those present bless the groom and give him gifts or cash. The 'sehra' or veil of golden threads is taken around to each member of the family to be blessed. His sisters tie the 'sehra' onto his turban. The 'sarbala' (a young boy, usually a nephew of the groom) will act as his constant companion and be with him until the wedding ceremony is over. The groom is escorted to the richly caparisoned mare; the mare's attendant feeds her horse gram and the groom and the 'sarbala' mount the mare.

Ghodi, Vag goodti and duppata varna
The groom's bhabi lines his eyes with surma (kohl). After this, the groom's sisters and cousins feed and decorate his mare. If the groom chooses to use a car for the occasion, then the car is decorated. His relatives use cash for the varna, a ceremony that is supposed to ward off the evil eye. The cash is given away to the poor.


Agwaani (Receiving the Groom's Procession or Baraat)
The bride's family receives the 'baraat' at the entrance of the bride's home.

Milni Cermony

Reception of the groom and the 'baraatis' by the bride's family. The 'baraat' (groom's party) arrives at the venue and is greeted by the male relatives from the bride's family to the singing of 'Hum Ghar Saajan Aaye' a hymn giving thanks for being blessed by the arrival of the gracious folk. The 'Ardaas' is said. The bride's father greets the groom's father by garlanding him and is garlanded in return. All the male relatives of the bride greet their counterparts in the groom's family in sequence, in like manner.

After the 'milni' the couple exchange garlands; this ceremony is known as the 'jaimala'. The bride garlands the groom first signaling her acceptance of him as her husband.

At the groom's house a sehera or floral veil is tied to the boy's forehead by his sisters and a garland of currency notes adorn his neck. The bridegroom mounts a decorated mare while his sisters-in -law put collyrium in his eyes. On reaching the bride's house the milni ceremony is held with the seniors of both families embracing each other. Shabads are sung and the ardaas recited as the procession enters the Gurudwara breakfast is served to the guests.

Jaimala or Varmala
The bride and groom exchange garlands during this ceremony. Those present indulge in much teasing and festivity to mark this happy occasion. Often, this ceremony acts as an effective ice-breaker for the nervous bride and her groom.

The wedding puja
The mahurat or auspicious time for the wedding ceremony is usually set after dinner. When the mahurat approaches, the purohit first performs a puja for the groom. The groom chants a few mantras. This is when the girl's young relatives grab the groom's untended shoes and hide it away to be returned after the ceremony for a fee. Kalecharis gold for the bride's sisters and silver for her cousins. The purohit performs another puja with the couple and their parents. The bride is given away by her father in a ceremony called the kanyadaan. This is followed by the pheras. The bride and groom go around the sacred fire with the bride's sari tied to the groom's pagdi with the help of the red chunni used in the ghara ghardoli ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the newly-weds touch the feet of the groom's parents and the elders present to take their blessings. The bride changes into the clothes presented by her in-laws, while her relatives apply tilak on the groom's forehead.


Doli (The bride send-off ceremony)
Before the bride leaves for her marital home, she either lights a 'mitti ka diya' (earthen lamp) in her parents home or turns on all the lights.

What follows is the most touching and sensitive ritual of Hindu weddings, the 'lajahom'. 'Laja' or 'phulian' is puffed rice (a sign of prosperity), which the bride has to take in both her hands and shower on all her family over the top of her head. She does this all the way to the palanquin or decorated car, which is waiting to take her to her new home. By doing this she is repaying all her debts to her parents for having looked after her all these years.

Reception at Groom's House
The newly weds are welcomed in a ceremony called the pani bharna. The groom's mother performs the traditional aarti with a pitcher of water. She makes seven attempts to drink the water from the pitcher. The groom must allow her to succeed only at the seventh attempt. The bride must, with her right foot, kick the sarson ka tel (mustard oil) that is put on the sides of the entrance door before she enters the house. Along with her husband, she must offer puja in their room. Then they must touch the feet of the elders in a ceremony called matha tekna. The rest of the evening is spent in playing enjoyable traditional games.

Kangna Kholna (Untying of the bracelet)
The bride and groom untie each other's bracelets in the presence of all the relatives. There is a lot of teasing and fun and frolic at this time. The bride is required to untie her husband's bracelet first.

Mooh Dikhai Ki Rasm (
Introducing the bride to the husbandís family)
Literally translated this means the 'showing of the bride' to the groom's family members, but in reality it is actually a form of introduction. The mother-in-law showers her 'bahu' (daughter-in-law) with jewellery, clothes and money at this time. The other close relatives of the family also offer her gifts and money.Literally translated this means the 'showing of the bride' to the groom's family members, but in reality it is actually a form of introduction. The mother-in-law showers her 'bahu' (daughter-in-law) with jewellery, clothes and money at this time. The other close relatives of the family also offer her gifts and money.

Reception Party
The groom's parents usually host the wedding reception. It is a formal party, presenting the newly wed couple to their extended family and friends. A military band is often requested to play elegant marches and classical tunes during this celebration. The wedding reception is an import from the West.

Phere Dalna
This ceremony demands that the newly weds visit the bride's parents on the day after the wedding. They are usually fetched by the bride's brother. The bride's parents host a lunch to mark the occasion. They also give a lot of gifts to the newly weds. This visit is made a day after the wedding if the bride and groom are leaving to live in another city. Otherwise it may be made whenever convenient. The couple visits the bride's paternal home and receives gifts and blessings.

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